We’d like to take this opportunity to discuss a serious and often overlooked issue in the construction industry. Recent surveys have found that Construction and Extraction is the occupational group with the highest male suicide rate in the US, and it’s been on the rise. Of course, the social and financial challenges associated with the current pandemic have added new elements of psychological stress for many people in this (and every other) industry. Suicide prevention needs to be something all construction companies pay attention to.
Why Does Construction Have Such a High Suicide Rate?
This is a complicated question, and there are many factors that contribute to the high suicide rate in the construction industry. Some of the more prevalent factors include:
- “Tough guy” attitudes that prevent construction workers from talking about their problems and seeking help, and also from showing concern and offering help to others
- An emphasis on self-sufficiency that attracts many people to this line of work, which also prevents people from reaching out and asking for help
- Long hours, physically demanding work, and a nomadic work life can lead to exhaustion, interfere with family life, and trigger feelings of isolation
- The physical demands of construction work and mental health issues can lead to substance abuse, including opioids, alcohol, and other drugs that increase the risk of suicide
- Construction work attracts a relatively high number of veterans, who are at elevated risk for depression, PTSD, and other mental health struggles
Mental Health Struggles Take a Toll on Everyone
In addition to the tragedy of suicide and the toll they can take on a person, mental health issues interfere with safety and productivity at work. Fatigue, difficulty concentrating, lack of motivation, and similar common symptoms of depression and other mental distress increase the risk of accidents, decrease the quality of work, and cut down on efficiency and productivity. Diminished safety is obviously a huge concern, as the construction industry has some of the most dangerous job sites of any industry. Construction workers deserve to be happy and healthy, and when they are, they aren’t the only ones who benefit; so too do their families, fellow crew members, and employers.
Signs of Suicide Risk
It’s important that people are able to spot suicidal risk in their employees and coworkers. Below are some of the more common signs you might notice at the workplace or job site include. Also be aware when people are going through especially difficult times, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, problems with a child, loss of household income, etc.
- Talking about suicide
- Talking about anxiety or depression
- Saying they feel like a burden on their loved ones
- Increased absenteeism
- Unexplained decrease in productivity and/or performance
- Isolating from coworkers
- Acting with disregard for personal safety
Some Steps Employers can Take
Here are some ways construction employers can make suicide prevention part of their company culture:
- Promote awareness about the high risk of suicide in the industry
- Publicize and distribute information about suicide risks and prevention
- Emphasize a safe and supportive environment
- Normalize conversations about mental health
- Provide training for employees to recognize suicide risk in others
- Encourage people to seek help if they need it
- Cover suicide, depression, and other mental health issues in safety training
- Make a mental health professional available to employees
- Do not tolerate bullying
- Avoid the culture of belittling and disciplining by management that is often seen in the industry
Are You Considering Suicide?
Help is available 24/7/365 through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255. Please call. For more information about getting immediate help, visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org/talk-to-someone-now/.